Being nominated for an award is supposed to be a nice thing, right? Well not for me. When I was told a few weeks ago that I had been shortlisted for a journalist of the year award by the gay rights organisation Stonewall, I knew I would not win. I was certainly a worthy contender, but I knew from that moment that all hell was about to break loose.
You need a little history first: in 2004 I wrote a column in this newspaper about a Canadian male-to-female transsexual who had taken a rape crisis centre to court over its decision not to invite her to be a counsellor for rape victims. I questioned whether a sex change would make someone a woman, or simply a man who has had surgery.
The article caused uproar among some sections of the transsexual community and, despite apologising publicly three times about the tone and inappropriate humour in the column, I have never been allowed to forget it.
Once the nomination became public I waited for the transsexual community to kick up a fuss. They did, and organised a massive campaign against me and Stonewall, culminating in a demonstration to protest my nomination outside the awards ceremony. The kerfuffle was not just about me, but deep-seated anger towards Stonewall for refusing to add the T (for transsexual) on to the LGB (for lesbian, gay and bisexual).
In the 1970s and 80s, lesbians were left to our own devices, and mainly organised and socialised separately from gay men. Then, in the late 1980s, along came Section 28, homophobic legislation which forbade schools to "promote homosexuality". HIV/Aids was affecting increasing numbers of gay men, so lesbians offered support and solidarity.
We became "lesbian and gay", but soon bisexuals shouted, "Us too". Transsexuals, having received short shrift from heterosexual society, asked to be included in our rainbow alliance, followed by Queer (anyone who is into "kinky" sex), then Questioning (those having a think about who and how they might shag in the future), and finally (for now) Intersex (those born with biological features that are simultaneously perceived as male and female). The mantra now at "gay" meetings is a tongue-twisting LGBTQQI.
It is all a bit of an unholy alliance. We have been put in a room together and told to play nicely. But I for one do not wish to be lumped in with an ever-increasing list of folk defined by "odd" sexual habits or characteristics. Shall we just start with A and work our way through the alphabet? A, androgynous, b, bisexual, c, cat-fancying d, devil worshipping. Where will it ever end?
On various message boards discussing my nomination, one poster said of me: "She does not have the right to express an opinion on trans matters as she is not trans. Any more than someone who is straight can express an opinion on homosexuality. It's not that her views are different, it is that she is expressing them at all. She has no right!"
Do you see the contradiction here? I am told I should not be nominated for awards from a gay organisation because I am part of one big "queer family" which should, they say, include transsexuals; but I am not allowed to comment on transsexualism. In the meantime, on the same websites, an intersex person was told to shut up by a transsexual, and lesbian feminists who were born women are being told they are neither of these things by a number of women who were born male but believe they make better lesbians than me.
I just want to be left alone. I am not in your gang, I did not ask to be, so please don't tell me I am one of yours, and then tell me off for offending your orthodoxy. Let's have an amicable split, instead of ending up carrying on like The Judean People's Front. Or is it The People's Front of Judea?